DSLR Opinions

Andrew McNabb amcnabb at mcnabbs.org
Sun Jun 12 19:58:01 MDT 2011


On Fri, Jun 10, 2011 at 06:13:19PM -0600, Tod Hansmann wrote:
> Anyone have any up-to-the-moment opinions on any digital SLR cameras?  
> Looking to get something that I can do some nice photos and possibly HD 
> video here and there.

Most of the responses are of the "Canon or Nikon" variety.  Not that
there's anything wrong with a Canon or a Nikon, but this smacks of the
blind loyalty to Microsoft/Cisco that are so common in the world.

I would like to give you an answer that may require a bit more thought
on your part, but which may help you to get the right equipment for you
and for the right reasons.  Here goes.

Optics are all about tradeoffs involving performance, size, and cost.
You need to determine what level of quality you require, what your
bugdet is, and what size of camera you are willing to carry with you.
These judgments are different for each person.

1) Performance.  Two things affect image quality: sensor size and lens
quality.  Most compact cameras have image sensors about 1/2.5 inches
across.  However, there are also advanced compacts with image diagonals
about 1/1.6  inches.  Other sizes to look at are APS-C and Micro Four
Thirds.  Full frame is better, but no one here would recommend starting
with a huge camera.  Here's a link that compares a few different sensor
sizes:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Sensor_sizes_overlaid_inside.svg

With very few exceptions, the image quality is proportional to the area
of the sensor (i.e., the square of the diagonal).


2) Size.  Some people are willing to carry around 10-20 pounds of camera
equipment everywhere they go, while others aren't.  You'll never take
pictures with a camera that isn't with you, so this is important to
think about unless you're one of those people that always carries around
a 17-inch 10 pound laptop.


So what camera should you get?  Here are three general classes of camera
that you should consider:

1) Advanced compact.  Michael Torrie referred to these.  They have a
1/1.6" sensor (2.5 times the surface area of a normal compact), and they
also tend to have higher quality optics.  The best in this class are the
Olympus XZ-1, the Panasonic LX5, and the Canon S95.  They're probably a
better option for most people than big, expensive, heavy cameras.  These
are compared briefly all on the following page:

http://www.dpreview.com/reviews/OlympusXZ1/

2) "Mirrorless interchangeable lens camera" a.k.a. "compact system
camera".  These are _much_ smaller than SLRs, but they have comparably
sized sensors and interchangeable lenses.  Sony makes nice ones if
you're into companies that sue and persecute their users, but for the
rest of us, you can pick between Panasonic (GF2 or G3), Olympus (E-PL2),
and Samsung (NX11, NX100, etc.), all of which do a great job.  Compared
to an SLR, they tend to be smaller and lighter but slightly lower
performance.

3) Digital SLRs.  I have less to say about DSLRs because they are less
neglected than advanced compacts and CSCs.  Look at a site like
dpreview.com to learn more about specific cameras.  And if a PLUG member
or anyone else shares a negative opinion about a camera, make sure that
they have a better reason than a fanboy's "it's not Canon or Nikon."

So there's my controversial but hopefully helpful response.

--
Andrew McNabb
http://www.mcnabbs.org/andrew/
PGP Fingerprint: 8A17 B57C 6879 1863 DE55  8012 AB4D 6098 8826 6868


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